(Juanita, BB, Brandee, Janet, Wendy, Erin, Jean, Debbie, Vicki, Terri and Ann! These ladies will always have a place in my quilty heart! Thanks for an amazing weekend!}
I just returned from the Quilters of SC Pieceable Retreat where I taught the Painted Cow class for the first time. (I was encouraged by a member of one of my guilds to submit a proposal. More on this woman in a future blog post…but commit to memory this is significant.)
The Pieceable Retreat is held annually and nearly 200 participants attend each year. As a Pieceable Retreat virgin, I had no idea what to expect. I was highly aware that other skilled and established teachers were on the roster. I was highly aware that a majority of the attendants have been quilting longer than I have been breathing. I was also highly aware that the majority of them fall into the traditional quilter category.
NO pressure, right!
I can’t say that I was “scared,” but I was respectfully nervous.
I was also determined to be myself. I didn’t want to change my technique or practice to be some sort of “technically perfect traditional quilter” that I truly, by nature, am not. I have been speaking publicly for more than 10 years. I know about myself that if I “know” my material, I can talk about it all day long with contagious passion. If I don’t, no amount of notes will help me present in a way that comes across as comfortable or knowledgeable.
So basically, I can’t “fake” it.
So, I just told myself, “If you botch this, they will definitely tell you. If that happens, you aren’t ready to teach this material just yet.”
Several weeks ago, I received my roster of 12 students. 12!!! Wait, what??? I wasn’t sure anyone would even sign up for this, “Painted Cow Class” thing…but the lady that encouraged me insisted they would. I learned later that a number of folks did not sign up because they thought they would be “painting” fabric with “paint” instead of thread. Naming issue on my part I guess. Anyway, I got my roster and emailed the Materials List and Class Description to my students. I didn’t hear anything. Hum…okay…
Two weeks before class, in an attempt to do a final reach out, I followed up to make sure students were finding some of the random materials they needed. I added some questions for each of them to answer in an attempt to learn about the skill level in the room. The emails started rolling in from some of the students. 20 years, 10 years, 15 years experience…hum! No pressure…
Holding steadfast, I answered their questions, told them they could find Aurifil at Hawthorne Supply and waited for the day they walked into the room. I made step outs. I “sort of” wrote down an outline. I felt I was as “ready” as I was ever going to be. It would work, or it wouldn’t.
Meeting My Students
The night before class started, the students brought their sewing machines and materials into the room to get set up and ready for class to begin the next day. They trickled in, saying hello and asking simple questions along the way. I have a publication deadline, so I was working on that project as they came and left.
Sleepless night…Then the time arrived, 9:00 am the morning of…class begins…
I checked my outline and opened by asking them to talk about themselves and their quilting journey. (It was the last time I ever looked at it during the full three days of class.) It was not only important for me to get to know them, but for them to get to know each other. Building the quilting community up through positive healthy relationships is very important to me. As they shared though, my suspicions were confirmed. Way more talent in the room than I had in my little pinkie. What was that lady thinking telling me to submit that proposal?
I was All In Though So Let the Lesson Begin!
Our first step was “taping the pattern together.” I had to spend some time explaining that my patterns are only PDF downloads. That meant they needed to tape a large 30” x 30” pattern together. I was secretly afraid I was loosing them, but I tried to stay conversational and tell stories. I tried to explain why I only do PDF patterns, and they seemed to be responsive and kind about it. Okay…good…keep going.
Next cutting out pattern pieces and tracing. These two steps took up a significant amount of time; however, as they worked I realized they were getting more familiar with the pattern – the lines. They were also getting more familiar with me and each other. It was after lunch on the first day before we even touched fabric. For quilters this is a big deal. If ever I were going to loose them, it was at 11:30 that morning. But they were troopers and they hung in there. All part of the process…and they totally got that. They were honestly, some of the most delightful people I ever met.
Once we returned from lunch we had to process the difference between choosing fabrics for this project and “auditioning fabrics.” They were hesitant, and I went around the room and “approved” all their fabrics, at their request. But, once we picked fabrics, and confirmed them, they were hooked! And I was hooked on them! They had their fabrics and started cutting out their shapes to build their cows. I was starting to notice a pattern about them as people…but I would wait until the next day to confirm it for myself. I was also exhausted! No sewing late that night on my deadline quilt, it was time for me to go to bed early and get ready for the next day.
Day One Progress Shots
By the start of the second day, they were ready to build their cows. Many of them had come back after dinner to get “caught up” so that we could all build our cows that morning. When I arrived at 9:00 AM on day two I had affirming and excited students. So we built. We built our cows. I learned I needed to add a couple items to the materials list that would have made it easier for them, so I jotted that down. They were excellent at honest and kind feedback.
I went around the room and made sure their placement was correct, and then gave them permission to press/fuse, one by one. And one by one I confirmed what I thought was forming about their personalities as they choose fabrics.
Their cows match their personalities…hehe!
By lunch on day two their cows were built and fused and it was time to begin thread painting. We began with a tread painting lesson and then I turned them loose to begin making their whiskers and hair and cow licks, oh my! They added lashes and scribbles. They seemed to enjoy the freedom of “scribbling” with thread.
By the end of the second day, many of them were well on their way to having their entire cow outlined and it was time for the retreat class show case in front of all 200 participants and vendors.
Again, I had no idea what to expect. After watching the first couple teachers I realized, I needed to go up on stage and announce my students while they parade in behind me with their cows. This was the moment. This was THEIR moment! They had worked so hard and faithfully on their pieces and I was SO proud of them! If the crowd didn’t return that love, I was going to intentionally need to control my disappointment.
My Girls Stole the Show!
I wasn’t prepared for what it would feel like to see them all standing there on the stage. I had not seen their cows up, off the tables and not covered it all sorts of paper or fabric scraps. They were amazing! The crowd loved it! People were bummed they hadn’t signed up for the class! My girl were the envy of the lot. They totally embraced their moment too!
Take a bow ladies! You earned it!